BEST OF

10 Best Parent Loans for College: Parent PLUS and Private

Don’t take on debt for your child unless you’re in a strong financial position yourself.

Cecilia ClarkSep 27, 2021

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Parent PLUS loans are federal student loans that are issued to parents. Parents looking to borrow money for their child's education can also look to private loans offered by banks and online lenders. Private loans generally don't come with fees, unlike federal parent PLUS loans.

When deciding between a PLUS loan or private loan, think about your current financial situation and employment outlook.

  • If you have solid finances and expect to be able to work the entirety of your loan term, a private student loan may be a better deal. Private student loans often offer lower interest rates and typically don't have origination fees.

  • If your finances are solid, but you foresee an impediment to your ability to work during your loan term, look for a loan with safety nets that are relevant to your situation. The PLUS loan offers an income-based repayment option and extends death and disability discharges to the parent borrower. A few private loans may also offer the death and disability discharge, like ISL Student Loans, or income-based repayment, like RISLA student loans.

  • If you are building your finances and don't meet private loan requirements, a PLUS loan is likely best for you as they don't have strict credit requirements.

Before taking out parent student loans, make sure that:

  • Your child has maxed out federal student loan options.

  • You’re saving enough for retirement.

  • You’ve paid off high-interest debt, like credit cards.

If you decide to move forward, here are our picks for the best parent student loans and information on financing your child's education.

Summary of Best Parent Loans for College: Parent PLUS and Private

Our pick for

Federal loan option for parents

Federal parent PLUS loans have fixed interest rates and minimal fees. Parent borrowers must not have any adverse credit history to qualify.

Federal Parent PLUS Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

6.28 - 6.28%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Federal PLUS loans are available to parents of undergrads as well as graduate students. They are best for parents who may need the safety net they offer, and for grad students who have hit limits on lower-interest unsubsidized loans.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Parent PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.

  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a parent PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.

  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Private parent loans for college

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

3.50 - 12.60%

Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%

Key facts

Best for parents who want to provide study support to their child.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: The borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRS assume a $10,000 loan to a borrower who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae loans. Advertised APRs are valid as of 07/22/2021. Loan amounts: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Examples of typical transactions for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common variable rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 6.88% APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $136.17 and one payment of $66.85 for a total loan cost of $18,314.28. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

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Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.75 - 6.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Advantage Education Loans are fixed-rate loans with borrower-friendly features, such as no late fees and a generous amount of forbearance. These loans are from the nonprofit Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp. and are available outside Kentucky, but not in every state.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is twice as long as most lenders.

  • Loans are available for students enrolled less than half time.

Cons

  • Loans may not be available depending on where you live or your child goes to school.

  • Fewer repayment terms than other lenders offer.

  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the parent borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Does not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,000. Maximum depends on creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Read Full Review

RISLA Private Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
RISLA Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

680

Fixed APR

3.64 - 5.46%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for parents who want to reduce child's debt levels.

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Partial loan forgiveness for eligible internships; interest forgiveness for qualifying nurses.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment terms available than other lenders.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 768.

  • Minimum income: $40,000.

  • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $45,000.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15 years

Read Full Review

ISL Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
ISL Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

670

Fixed APR

4.60 - 7.40%

Variable APR

3.51 - 6.14%

Variable APR

3.51 - 6.14%

Key facts

Best for low-interest loans with consumer-friendly features, like a generous forbearance policy.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • No late fees.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 759.

  • Minimum income: No minimum income.

  • Loan amounts: $1,001 or $2,001, based on residency and school location, up to cost of attendance minus other aid received.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15

Read Full Review
Brazos Parent Loan
Check rate

on Brazos's website

Brazos Parent Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Brazos Parent Loan

Min. Credit Score

720

Fixed APR

2.95 - 5.65%

Variable APR

0.93 - 5.53%
Check rate

on Brazos's website


Variable APR

0.93 - 5.53%

Key facts

Brazos is best for parent loan borrowers who live in Texas and want to finance undergraduate or graduate education for their children.

Pros

  • Borrowers can finance undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

  • Students do not have to attend college in Texas to qualify.

Cons

  • Available only to parent borrowers in Texas.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: N/A

  • Minimum income: $60,000 for co-signer or primary borrower, or $30,000 for primary borrower if applying with a co-signer.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 up to $400,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years

Disclaimer

Rates as of 10/01/2021. Lowest rate shown is for eligible, creditworthy applicants, requires a 5 year repayment term and assumes the current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.15% plus a margin of 3.5% minus the .25% Auto-Pay Discount. Your actual interest rate and repayment terms may be different depending upon the terms you choose and your financial and credit history. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. In addition, the variable rate is subject to change monthly, based upon the 1-month LIBOR index, and, as such may increase (or decrease) monthly, even after consummation. This means that your payment may increase, or decrease, after disbursement. The variable rate is capped and will never exceed 9.90%. The rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan, the APR is the same as the actual interest rate for the loan. While the APR, once you proceed, may differ slightly depending upon the calculation methods and certain assumptions, the base rate and margin that you are charged will remain as stated. Auto-Pay Discount includes a .25% interest rate reduction when either the borrower or cosigner authorizes ACH payments of full principal and interest from any bank account. Certain other terms and conditions apply.

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College Ave Parent Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Parent Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Parent Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.24 - 12.99%

Variable APR

1.04 - 11.98%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.04 - 11.98%

Key facts

Best for parents who want to control some of their student's spending.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Up to $2,500 can be disbursed to you directly for school-related expenses.

  • You can choose your monthly payment while the student is in school, provided it covers at least the interest.

Cons

  • No co-signer option.

  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the parent borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $70,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

Between 5 and 15 years.

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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INvestED Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
INvestED Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

670

Fixed APR

3.83 - 7.65%

Variable APR

1.57 - 5.47%

Variable APR

1.57 - 5.47%

Key facts

Best for Indiana residents or students in the state with good grades.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • Non-freshmen with good grades may be able to qualify without a co-signer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You must be an Indiana resident or attend a school in the state to qualify.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 710.

  • Minimum income: $39,996.

  • Loan amounts: $1,001 up to annual cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Read Full Review
SoFi Private Student Loan
Check rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

2.99 - 10.90%

Variable APR

0.99 - 11.33%
Check rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

0.99 - 11.33%

Key facts

Best for flexible repayment options and no fees.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Multiple in-school repayment options available, including interest-only and flat-fee, and deferred for undergrad and grad students.

  • Additional perks like career planning, job search assistance and entrepreneurship support available.

Cons

  • Does not offer bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 minimum.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 2.99% to 10.66% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 0.99% to 11.22% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.09% to 11.33% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.04% to 11.28% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.19% to 11.22% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 08/23/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).

Read Full Review
ELFI Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Nelnet Bank's website

ELFI Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
ELFI Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

680

Fixed APR

3.34 - 10.50%

Variable APR

1.28 - 10.05%
Check rate

on Nelnet Bank's website


Variable APR

1.28 - 10.05%

Key facts

Best for borrowers who want multiple repayment term options.

Pros

  • Borrowers can make interest-only payments while in school.

  • Offers 24 months of hardship forbearance.

Cons

  • Loans aren’t available in Vermont.

  • Loans not available to borrowers with student visas.

  • You can’t make bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum income: $36,000

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 with an aggregate loan limit of $125,000

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 and 15 years

Disclaimer

The lowest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments. The lowest rate is available only to the most creditworthy applicants. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.

Read Full Review

Types of parent student loans

There are two types of loans available for parents: federal direct PLUS loans and private student loans.

Federal direct PLUS loans are government loans that parents can take out to help pay for a child's college education. They have higher interest rates and fees and qualify for fewer repayment plans than federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for students.

The interest rate for federal direct PLUS loans is 6.28% for 2021-22. There is also an origination fee of 4.228%, which is deducted from each loan disbursement.

Assuming your child has exhausted federal student loan options and your finances are sound, consider a parent PLUS loan if:

  • You work for the government or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and want to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

  • You won't have steady income for the duration of the loan term.

  • Your credit isn't strong enough to qualify for a lower rate with a private parent loan.

» MORE: Estimate monthly payments using a parent PLUS loan calculator

How to get a parent student loan

To apply for a PLUS loan, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid with your child. NerdWallet's FAFSA guide can help. Then, complete the direct PLUS loan application for parents.

You can apply for a private parent student loan directly with the lender.

Before signing-up for a private parent loan, shop around to find the lowest student loan interest rate you qualify for. Some lenders have a pre-qualification process that allows you to see a personalized rate before the lender does a hard credit pull.

Who pays a parent student loan?

Make sure you and your child work out clear plans for repayment before taking out a parent student loan. The loan will ultimately be your responsibility to repay. The only way to transfer parent loans is to have your child refinance the loan in his or her name.

Last updated on September 27, 2021

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Parent Loans for College: Parent PLUS and Private